“U.S. Covid-19 Vaccine Donations to Boost Developing World’s Pandemic Fight,” the Wall Street Journal intoned. And in the Philippine’s own Daily Inquirer: “PH among 1st to receive U.S.-donated vaccines.”
As someone with a house and life in that particular developing country, what happens in the Philippines is close to my heart. And what’s been happening lately is not very pretty: frightening surges of COVID infections coupled with strict lockdowns and millions of Filipinos either afraid or unable to get vaccinated.
Nine out of ten adult Filipinos worry that they or their families will become infected, one recent survey suggested. Which explains why so many have willingly endured drastic lockdowns described as among the world’s strictest. And yet almost half also profess little faith in science and 63% say they prefer U.S.-made vaccines over Sinovac, the Chinese brand now readily available in the Philippines.
“COVID is everywhere,” a Facebook friend in Bataan recently told me via text, “but I’m afraid to get the Chinese vaccine.” That seems to be the prevailing sentiment, probably resulting from years of tension between the two countries and the fact that the pandemic originated in China.
Ah, but then, as if on cue, the cavalry arrived as over two million doses of the U.S.-made Pfizer vaccine shipped to Manila, Cebu, and Davao. “The United States is committed to leading the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.S. Embassy Chargé d’affaires John Law declared at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino Airport. “And we will continue to support the Philippines’ vaccination and COVID-19 mitigation efforts as the reliable friend, partner, and ally.”
“Three Cheers for Biden’s Vaccine Donation,” the Wall Street Journal, a frequent critic of the President, gushed over America’s plan to contribute 500 million vaccine doses to the world’s developing nations.
In fact, this was the second Pfizer arrival in the Philippines; an earlier May 10 shipment contained nearly 200,000 doses. To date, the country has received over five million doses through COVAX Advance Market Commitment, a global initiative for equitable vaccine distribution to which the U.S. is the largest contributor. And yet only about 2.9% of the country’s population has received vaccinations, compared to roughly 20% worldwide.
Government officials hope to increase that number significantly. “The long days and nights of waiting are finally over,” Dept. of Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said following the first vaccine delivery last month. “With every dose that we will administer, we are inching towards a safer recovery from this pandemic. Together, we will rise as a nation and heal as one.”
For the record, both Ivy and I have gotten poked; she with Pfizer and me with Moderna. While my wife experienced three days of mild head and body aches, I felt no reaction at all. And, according to recent blood tests, both of us now benefit from more-than-abundant antibodies to protect us from the virus.
Here in the U.S., in fact, the pandemic finally seems to be retreating. Just over a month ago, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Washington D.C. declared that vaccinated Americans could mingle in public without wearing masks. And earlier this week, my home state of California finally followed suit by relaxing its own mask mandate for vaccinated individuals.
So life around here is returning to normal, with even seniors like me wandering mask less at will. I hope to be back in the Philippines soon. My ardent prayer is that the adjustment won’t be too traumatic.
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David Haldane’s latest book, a short story collection called “Jenny on the Street,” is available on Amazon. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, Haldane is an award-winning journalist, author and broadcaster currently dividing his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines.
Originally Published in Mindanao Gold Star Daily
The fear of Sinovac is sad. It’s equal to the Western vaccines and has fewer side effects.
Hmm, hat’s interesting, Daniel. I’ve read of several studies — the most famous, I think, in Brazil — indicating that Sinovac is somewhat less effective than it’s Western counterparts. Do you dispute that? I’d be interested in seeing any studies that have been done…
Yes, things seem to be looking up. As with all things in the Philippines, patience will be required. We got registered with both the Veterans Administration and the rural health center in our small municipality. No idea yet when we will be called up.
An expat friend who lives in a nearby municipality was called on short notice to get vaccinated. He showed up early, hoping to get in and get out. He found chaos. The place was packed with people who didn’t have an appointment, and there was no clear organization by the folks running the site.
He managed to cut through the chaos by playing the loud, rude foreigner. He thinks they jabbed him just to get him out of their hair.
But the crowd may be an indication that Filipinos may be more worried about catching Covid than they are about the vaccine.
I also recently saw an announcement from the tourism website of Guam, that they have opened a program to invite US citizens and green card holders living in the Philippines to Guam to be vaccinated. Biggest drawback there is getting back in to the Philippines afterwards. The protocols for international arrivals were a fluctuating mess. But now they seem to be settling down to something resembling order. It still involves an expensive 14 day quarantine.
Hope you and your family are well.
Interesting observations, Pete. I have a ticket to return on July 22 and hoping the entry procedures will have settled down somewhat by then; if not, well, guess I’ll just have to plow through them. This is the first I’ve heard about Guam; that might be a good alternative for some foreigners desperate to get vaccinated. Be well, my friend.
Hurray, so glad we stepped up to help.
I hope everyone who wants and needs the shots over in the Philippines is soon able to get theirs.
I am still just a bit suspicious and skeptical.